Posts Tagged ‘HCI’

Geospatial Cyberinfrastructure and User-centric HCI

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Usability evaluation of GIS is delineated by Haklay et al. in their publication 2010. The connection of human computer interaction (HCI) and public participation geographic information science (PPGIS) is delineated in their paper, but the relationship with geospatial cyberinfrastructure is not explored enough. I think the idea of user-centric design can also be applied in geospatial cyberinfrastructure, which has attracted more research interests.

Geospatial cyberinfrastructure, which provide the functionalities of geospatial data collection, management, analysis and visualization, adopts pure system-centric design in previous studies. Due to the fact that most users of geospatial cyberinfrastructure are research scientists or domain experts, geospatial cyberinfrastructure is criticized for its bad usability. As the development of PPGIS, more users become geospatial data producer in GIS. Since these data are valuable in GIS study, geospatial cyberinfrastructure should be adapted to provide user-centric services.

Here, I name a few challenges for utilizing user-centric design in geospatial cyberinfrastructure, especially when we consider better HCI. Firstly, data search within geospatial cyberinfrastructure should be equipped with fuzzy reasoning functionalities to help non-professional GIS users to fetch the data that they need. Secondly, at the visualization layer, the display should be easy to understand (I think GoogleMap has provided a good example) and manipulate for users. Moreover, multi-media input/output with HCI should also be developed. Thirdly, at the infrastructure level, we are facing a dilemma: the controllability and learnability. To be specific, if we give users more control of geospatial cyberinfrastructure, the corresponding training work also increase. If we want to keep geospatial cyberinfrastructure easy to learn, we should hide most details about the geospatial cyberinfrastructure. Hot to balance the controllability and learnability is a great challenge in the user-centric design of geospatial cyberinfrastructure.


Can’t we all just get along?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

A user-centred design of human-computer interfaces, what a thought!  As someone who has gotten to grow up with the best of computers (so far), but still remembers the clunky old Macintosh that was considered ahead of the rest, I definitely see the value in a smooth, practical, and functional design.  So after reading this article by Haklay and Tobon, I was left with two thoughts.

One, to what extent should design conform to the needs of the people, and to what lengths should people go to meet the design?  The idea of incorporating usability and HCI techniques into public participatory GIS (PPGIS) is, in my opinion, a good one, and can create this middle ground.  People can learn new skills, allowing them to become more familiar with potentially less than intuitive softwares (ArcGIS, anyone?) and simultaneous research can restructure software to be as functional and also usable as possible.

Additionally, it made me think of the students in this class who are going through ethics approval, and trying to get people to participate in GIS-related studies.  This article mentions three workshops, which were integrated into a context larger than just furthering GIS as a field, which seemingly drew more participants.  But for people like the students in this class, who require volunteers to simply further their own (and eventually our) understanding of GIS techniques, participants are less than willing.  So while the research aspect usability of PPGIS is an honourable pursuit, I wonder how realistic it would be if the user is not someone who is involved in a particular group, like the involved citizens in Wandsworth, but rather an everyday user of a website or phone app.

I enjoy their statement at the end, though, that points out that “ease of use and user friendliness are characteristics of software that are more elusive than they first seem to be”.  Isn’t that the truth!


HCI, Cognition, Systems and Designing Better GIS

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Mordechai Haklay and Carolina Tobon provide an interesting overview of the use of GIS by non-experts, with a good focus on how public participation in GIS continues to shape the actual GIS systems in a manner that makes them more accessible and easy to use. In particular, I find their section on the workshops they conducted (582-588) to evaluate the usability of a systems pretty interesting, especially the authors work testing the London Borough of Wandsworth’s new platform. In particular, findings on the need to integrate aerial photos for less sophisticated map users and the need for the system to give feedback to users to confirm they had completed a task struck me as simple, intuitive adjustments many systems leave out. Of course, something as simple as feedback to confirm a task may seem like an obvious part to be included in any system, but I can think of a great many online programs and forms which fail to do this and often leave me wondering if my work/response has been saved.

One of the more interesting aspects of the topic of human-computer interaction, for me, when thinking about it in terms of GIS, includes the way it sits at the intersection of geospatial cognition and geospatial cyberinfrastructure. Perhaps I am biased by my own interests, but this topic pulls these two previous ideas from our class together nicely, as it relies on both to make many of its most salient points. However, one question I had, after reading this paper and discussing cognition in class, remains how do we test geospatial cognition in such a manner that we can apply our findings to better systems design. Often, the field of geospatial cognition seems more obsessed with exploring the ways in which humans understand space and engage in way-finding behavior. I’d be interested in seeing articles/research that really digs into actually applying psychological findings to systems design in a manner that goes beyond the testing these authors have done. I should say they do a nice job, though, of summarizing the theory of how cognitive processes like “issues such as perception, attention, memory, learning and problem solving and [] can influence computer interface and design” (569). Yet I don’t see these concepts applied directly in their testing – perhaps it’s just not covered extensively.

I think it’s only in this way that we can truly bridge the gap between humans and computers. Or is it, humans and networks of computers? Or humans and the cloud? Or humans and the manner in which computers visualize data, represent scale and provide information about the levels of uncertainty? As one might conjecture, the topic of human/computer interaction may be limitless depending on what angle we approach it from.